LA MESA –- Not too many years ago, the fields and hills of La Mesa were filled with fruit trees and avocados. Chickens wandered through yards and local residents ate what they raised.

One La Mesa couple, recently moved to their village home, thinks it may be time to turn back the clock – at least a few hours.

Jill Richardson and her boyfriend, Richard Dean, a recent refugee from the New York City restaurant scene, appeared before the La Mesa City Council and asked the council members to consider allowing local residents to keep a small number of hens on their property.

The reason: Richardson believes home raised hens (“not roosters!”) can be fed organically and will produce better eggs with improved nutrition.

She also said the hens are good, docile company, reduce garbage sent to the landfills and produce fertilizer that is good for the garden.

Richardson said roosters should not be allowed, given their tendency to crow and wake all throughout the night.

Richardson and Dean’s request was raised during the public comment portion of the November council meeting and so, by rule, could not be discussed fully at that meeting. However, one council member couldn’t hold back.

Council member Ruth Sterling said she was under the impression that hens wouldn’t produce eggs without a rooster’s – help.

“Doesn’t it take a rooster to get an egg?’’ Sterling asked.

“It does not,’’ Richardson explained.

After the brief interlude on animal husbandry, council members asked city staff to research the issue and consider adding it formally to a future agenda. The item returned to the council agenda on Dec. 8, but with a recommendation that the issue be tabled.

City staff said hens are allowed on larger parcel properties – mainly lots located east of Route 125. However they said changing the zoning of smaller, more urban properties would require a lengthy and expensive process.

Rather than consider the issue now, staff suggested the idea be considered as the staff conducts a general update of the city code being considered for the city’s centennial in two years.

So for now, the eggs must wait.

All of which brings to memory the story of the man who showed up at the psychiatrist’s office all in a lather.

“It’s my brother,’’ the man said. “He’s spent the last ten years believing he is a chicken. He just walks around the yard, scratching at the earth. I just can’t take it any more!’’

The psychiatrist told the man he can easily cure his brother, but asked why it took so long to bring him in for treatment?

“I needed the eggs,’’ he said.

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